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Wrongful Death and Parents Grief

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Jay Sullivan and Carole Lee Casillas lost their teenage sons. They are angry because both senseless deaths were preventable.

As any parent who has lost a child knows, there is nothing worse and no greater pain. Giving up your own life would almost be a relief in the most grievous times -- that is how bad the pain is.

Be it through sickness or accident, young or old, there is no kind of loss easier to bear. But what can and does ease a parent's suffering is the knowledge that everything possible was done to prevent a death. Loved ones need to go through a grieving process and sometimes it can take a lifetime.

It is an unnecessary and unfair burden to also deal with anger.

Jay Sullivan, Payson, Utah:
"It was Memorial Day and we were having a family party on the patio. My 19-year-old son John got a phone call from his friend Brian, needing a ride to our party. John picked him up in our 1995 Chevy pick-up and began driving back home, south on the interstate highway. Six miles from our house, there was an accident, just a fender-bender and nobody was hurt. A semi-trailer had pushed a car onto the right-hand shoulder of the highway.

Just a few minutes before John had reached the scene of this accident, a Utah patrol car was heading north. When he saw the accident, the patrolman drove over the overpass and turned back into the southbound lane. In the interim, the semi-trailer had pulled into the fast lane and the driver stopped the truck. The two truck drivers had got out of their cab; one was standing by the truck in the fast lane and the other one stood at the back of the semi. They were looking at the patrolman who in turn was looking at the people in the car that had been pushed off the road by the semi.

The highway patrolman had parked behind a few cars on the right shoulder. Neither his park lights or flashers or break lights were not on. Nobody had marked the truck at all. The patrolman should have seen this and parked behind the semi. That didn't happen.

As the patrolman was talking to the people in the car, my son comes up over the overpass. John and Brian thought the truck was moving. He didn't see the semi soon enough. Brian heard him say 'Oh shit' and that was it."

Brian walked away from the accident and John's airbag in the truck did not deploy. GM told Jay Sullivan that "It probably wouldn't have saved his life anyway."

Sullivan can't fight back his tears. "He was my only boy. We were like brothers," he says. What can help this father's pain?

Sullivan believes the highway patrolman didn't do his job.
"I want the highway patrol to apologize and admit that nobody should have left a truck parked like that. The patrolman stood there and watched my son hit the back of that truck... They killed my son."

Sullivan also wants GM to "Give 60 minutes of prime time live to publicly apologize for that asinine statement regarding the air bag."

Carole Lee Casillas, Riverside County, California:
"My son died while in custody at the West Valley Detention Center on March 22, 2005. He was 26 years old. I know he was arrested on an old warrant, but the police stopped his car for no apparent reason except that he was driving away from a known drug neighborhood.

The police said his car was impounded because it didn't have license plates but I had bought the car just 10 days prior and it had the correct sticker...

Carlos phoned me from jail at 10 p.m. and sounded fine. He told me that he loved me, was sorry for the mess he was in and asked if I could pick him up in the morning. Yes, I told him and I would take care of the misdemeanor charge.

At 7 am. the next day I phoned the jail and a woman told me that he would be released at 9 am. But he was already dead. The San Bernardino County coroner called just after 8 am. I had to identify the body."

This is what the coroner told Mrs. Casillas:

07.50 pm: Carlos was arrested.
10:00 pm: Booked in.
01.50 am: Carlos was in the receiving area and deputies noticed that he was acting bizarre.
02.40 am: Carlos was taken to the nurse. He was hot, sweaty and delirious. The nurse told deputies to call 911 ASAP and transport him to hospital.
03.25 am: Carlos was pronounced dead at the hospital.

His cause of death was unknown but Louisa Townshend, Carlos's sister, was told by the coroner's officials that her brother had swallowed a large bag of drugs and the jail deputies knew about it.

The Sherrif department's policy is to contact medical staff immediately if an inmate has ingested drugs of any kind. So why was there a delay of one hour from when Carlos displayed symptoms and when he was taken to the nurse?

Furthermore, a spokeswoman from the San Bernardino County sheriff's office said that deputies didn't notice Carlos displaying symptoms until he had been in the ambulance for nine minutes.

"They denied him medical care," says Carole Lee Casillas. "When I got the report back, all it said was that officials had taken him to hospital. I still don't have a death certificate and that was 10 months ago. I figure they don't know what to do and West Valley Detention centre is notorious for deaths."

Both Jay Sullivan and Carole Lee Casillas have been let down by the judicial system. Are law enforcment authorities above the law? Although no amount of money can bring their sons back, these people need compensation.

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